Know Where You’re Going – Using a Developmental Checklist as a Guide

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As you begin to plan out your preschool curriculum for the year, it helps to know where your children are developmentally so that you know where you want to “go”.  One way I like to do that is with a developmental checklist.  You can buy developmental checklists and programs like the POCET or the Portage Guide ,or if you’re a nerd like I am, you can look through position statements and curriculum guides and develop your own.  I put together one based on several resources, as well as my own philosophy and program.  It seems best to fit my needs.  If you accept the caveat that I have not been commissioned by a higher authority to create this as the perfect assessment piece, you’re welcome to use it as well.  Just click on Broad Developmental Assessmentto find the PDF file.  (Feel free to comment with any questions you may have about using this checklist, or comment on how you’ve adapted it to meet your needs.)

Here’s how I use it.  At the beginning of the year, during my parent meeting, I hand out an assessment to each parent.  I explain that I developed this list to guide my activities,  NOT as a judgement of their children.   It is NOT intended as a checklist of all the skills their children should be able to do already, or that they should even be able to check everything by the time they finish the year.  ( In fact, I intentionally put some skills on the list that are actually considered kindergarten skills, just to show the progression of those skills.)  What this checklist does, is show me where the children are on their skills and what they accomplish through the year.  It helps me to stay focused on providing opportunities within the ZPD of the children, to develop the skills that have not yet been mastered, while at the same time not going too far beyond their skill level.

Here’s an example.  If I notice that none of the children has mastered patterns, I may work that into a small group activity.  If only a few children need exposure to that skill I may approach them as they play at the working tables and use the manipulatives there (such as geo tiles or lacing beads) to introduce the concept individually.  Likewise, if I need to assess how well the children manipulate scissors, or if many of the children need more experience with this motor skill, I would plan a cutting activity at the art table.  The purpose of the checklist is really more as a guide for my teaching than an evaluation of the child.

AT the meeting, I have the parents fill out the checklist, writing the child’s name on the top, and marking each skill they have already observed as mastered.  (They can simply put a check in the date column.)  Then I have them star three or so items to indicate those skills they would most like to see their child develop, so that I have an idea of where the parents assess their own child’s needs.  (These starred items would also be great to discuss at a beginning of year parent-teacher conference.)

Once I have the completed lists, I put them in a binder with a tab for each child, followed by their checklist and a few blank pages.  On the blank pages I can make any notes that may go along with the observations.  I number them as I enter them, and then write the number in the comments column next to the skill, so that I know that there is a comment associated with the skill.

With these checklists as my guide, I can more easily determine which skills I need to incorporate as I do my planning.  With a focused guide I can chart an effective course for learning by giving the children the right opportunities at the right time.

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